Russia's Covid-19 deaths hit new record as disease ravages regions

Russia reported 507 Covid-19 deaths and 23,675 new cases in the past 24 hours. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) - The daily toll of Covid-19 deaths in Russia exceeded 500 for the first time as the rise in infections across the country puts increasing strain on hospitals and medical staff complain about a lack of medicines and protective gear.

There were 507 deaths and 23,675 new cases in the past 24 hours, the government's virus response centre said on Wednesday (Nov 25). The seven-day average number of Covid-19 deaths has reached 450, the highest so far, compared with less than 400 a week ago.

Russia has the fifth-most cases globally, approaching 2.2 milion, after the United States, Brazil, India and France. The federal authorities have refrained from locking down during the second wave of the pandemic, instead introducing limited restrictions in hard-hit regions in order to contain the economic fallout. So far, only one of Russia's 85 regions has imposed a lockdown.

President Vladimir Putin told officials last week that the situation wasn't easy and described the rising mortality rate as the "most alarming" trend.

More than 80 per cent of Russia's 265,000 Covid-19 beds are occupied, with several regions reporting occupancy above 90 per cent, officials told Mr Putin. According to the government's daily reports, 37,538 people have died from the disease since the start of the epidemic.

But more complete official data on mortality released with a substantial lag put the toll far higher, at 55,671 from April through September. The real death toll could be three times the official daily total, according to Mr Alexey Rashka, a former employee of the statistics agency.

The authorities have placed their hopes on vaccines that are still in trials. On Tuesday, the developers of Russia's Sputnik V said initial testing showed it was 91.4 per cent effective in preventing infections, although it has not yet published final results in a peer-reviewed journal.

Still, inoculating everyone who wants a vaccination could take as long as a year, according to Professor Alexander Gintsburg, the director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology that developed the inoculation.

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